Camille-Sophie Brès - 2020 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Country of Birth: France
From a young age, I was interested in physics and math. I liked building LEGO creations and random things from scrap. So when I had to make my first big decision regarding my studies, I quickly chose electrical engineering to explore the applied aspect of math and physics. The professors and young researchers I interacted with during my studies then inspired me to specialize in photonics.
As a professor, I have various responsibilities. I teach both undergraduate and graduate students educating future engineers and scientists. I lead my own research group where I work with my PhD students and postdocs on various funded research projects related to nonlinear optics. We are mostly interested in enhancing the interaction of light with matter within waveguiding structures. I am also highly involved in services both within and outside my university, such as outreach, promoting my research field, or organizing and participating in conferences.
In a career it’s normal and healthy to face obstacles and challenges. I faced one of my biggest challenges when I had to start my own research laboratory. It represented a big step in my career, my first real independence. At the same time, I had two very young children so I had to be very efficient and organized to make it all work. It was not easy, but with passion, perseverance, and support I made it possible. I am still very proud of this accomplishment.
When starting out, build and maintain relationships, and be active in the community. Networking is very important, so surround yourself with knowledgeable mentors and people you relate to. It’s important for many aspects of your career, but also so you can seek advice when you face challenges and to simply share experiences.
If you are interested in a career in STEM, being a woman should definitely not be a deciding factor. What you are passionate about should be the only driving force. Of course, being a woman in men-dominated fields can sometimes create pressure or doubt. So have support from family, colleagues, and friends. And surround yourself with positive mentors and role models.